Mention the term "estate planning" and many people think of controlling taxes. Yet minimizing potential estate taxes is only one component of planning your estate. The full value of estate planning extends well beyond tax considerations.
It's a sobering fact: More than one in four 20-year-olds become disabled before reaching retirement age.1 And the risk of becoming disabled remains high for all working adults. Unless you plan ahead, a prolonged illness or accident could jeopardize your future financial security.
A standby trust can help protect your finances should you become disabled. With this type of trust, you choose a trustee who will handle your finances only if a predetermined event, such as your incapacity, takes place. You can give your trustee authority to make investment decisions, collect investment income, and pay your bills, debts, and taxes. Once you recover, your trust can go back on standby status.
Keeping up with the management of your assets is easy as long as you travel only for short periods. However, when personal or business travel becomes frequent or prolonged, finding the time to track the markets and make investment decisions can become difficult. You can sidestep this burden by establishing a revocable living trust and delegating management responsibility to your trustee during extended absences. Your trustee will take care of your financial affairs while you're unavailable.
Alternatively, you can give your trustee full management responsibility over trust assets as soon as you create the trust. With any revocable trust arrangement, you set the rules. You can alter or end the trust at any time, for any reason.
Life insurance can provide a much-needed financial cushion for your loved ones after you're gone. But converting insurance proceeds into a stream of long-term income requires practiced investment management skills. Do your spouse and children have the experience needed to manage a large sum of money? You may be able to prevent future financial problems by setting up a life insurance trust in your estate plan. This strategy can help to shield your family against risks, such as heeding bad investment advice or depleting the assets too quickly. Your trustee will care for the trust funds and distribute the money to your heirs as you have indicated in the trust agreement.
If you own a substantial investment portfolio, you may want to make sure that your assets will receive the attention and care of an experienced investment professional after you're gone. One way to accomplish this objective is to use your will to transfer assets to a testamentary trust. Your trustee will manage the assets for the sole benefit of your beneficiaries -- your spouse, your children, even a charity. They will receive the trust assets as you have stipulated. This type of trust is often used to fund the care or education of minor children.
1The Facts about Social Security's Disability Program, Social Security Administration.
Contact a financial professional to learn more.